Agenda item

Questions from citizens



AM asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Culture and Planning:

How is the City Council planning to take account of the outcomes of the library consultation and the demands of the Save Nottingham Libraries campaign group, along with the new cost of living crisis that has emerged since the consultation?


Councillor Pavlos Kotsonis replied as follows:

Thank you Lord Mayor. I would like to thank the resident who posed this question. The Council has been clear that this review of the library service would be open and transparent so that everybody could participate in the consultation, and that has been done now. The Council has yet to make a decision upon the obviously longer-term transformation of the library service and it’s deliberately looking at all of the facts and feedback received from the extensive consultation exercise that was undertaken. Since commencing this work, I am also very aware of the change of circumstances that have occurred in the country as well as the city as a result of the cost of living crisis, which is why I think that it is important this is clearly referenced in our work. I think it is correct that we find ways to act on this and consider how this changes people’s needs from the library service. As I said previously, the cost of living crisis impacts upon each and every one of us: individuals and communities. Similarly, it also impacts on Council spending, going forward the money we spend will buy us less, which has a direct impact on the ability of the Council to deliver services. So, whilst no announcements can be made on this point at this meeting, I can reassure the resident asking the question that the cost of living crisis will have to be an important parameter on how we arrive at our final decision. Thank you.


Student housing

JD asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Housing and HR:

How are you going to fight back against the increased numbers of students going to be enrolled at the two universities?  We are desperate for residential housing and we cannot keep up with demand for existing student numbers.  When will enough be enough?  We are in danger of our city centre in years to come becoming a student village.

Councillor Toby Neal replied as follows:

Thank you Lord Mayor and thank you for the question from the citizen. This is an issue that the City Council takes seriously and one that many cities are experiencing, not just Nottingham. Indeed, cities across the country are seeing a crisis in student accommodation, with students being housed many miles from their places or studying in temporary accommodation or hotels. As a Council we have no ability to resist in the growth in student numbers which are determined by the two universities. The government lifted the cap on student numbers in 2015, allowing student universities to increase the number of students admitted each year. The funding models for universities are based on attracting more students and we have experienced approximately a 30% increase in students requiring accommodation. So, as a result we have to manage the issues that are raised by this and have concentrated on purpose-built student accommodation over the period, but this still provides us with a shortfall of more than five-thousand beds per year. Demographic changes also mean that nationally the number of undergraduates wishing to study at university is also increasing and will continue to do so up until about 2030. We have been developing planning policies and working with residents and partners on student-only accommodation and the government gives us very clear guidance as to what we must do to meet planning requirements for student accommodation. So, seeking to prevent the provision of further student accommodation in the city by refusing planning permission would not be successful and could be subject to challenge by developers at appeal. It also means students would be turning more towards the private rented sector, creating the further shortfall of available housing for local residents and an increase in rents. As I have said, the City Council’s role is in creation of purpose built student accommodation through the planning process, built by private developers and financed by private investors and we have a number of planning documents in place to help guide those developments. This guidance helps us to promote mixed and balanced communities, encourage purpose student-built accommodation (PBSA) in appropriate locations, i.e. around university campuses and on allocated sites within the city. It prevents further on-street student accommodation in the areas where students and or houses of multiple occupation exceed 10% of the population. We are looking towards how we can manage and return neighbourhoods to more residential homes, but we must also understand that students provide a huge economic impact to the city and having two world class universities only makes that more so. It equates to roughly £1.3bn in overall indirect investment into the city and approximately twenty-five thousand jobs. If considered in this combination this would be Nottinghamshire’s third largest direct employer and those students who choose Nottingham as their place to study support a wide range of retail businesses and services from restaurants to shops, clubs, hairdressers, leisure to hotels when their parents visit. These are substantial indirect financial benefits for this city as the students and universities support the various businesses. The universities also pay business rates and the Council receives New Homes Bonus funding for additional public PBSA provision. It also counts towards our housing targets. In summary, development of PBSA in Nottingham is part of a carefully planned and evidenced response to growing student numbers. It looks to a long-term growth.  We test it and we consider the broad range of housing needs for our citizens. There are levers in place to ensure we can control growth of the purpose built student accommodation and when the evidence shows us there is no longer the need for further provision and, importantly, that alternative uses can be found for new schemes coming forward if the PBSA was to change. So, the need to fight against student expansion I think is the wrong question. I think it is how we make sure we accommodate the different mixes of the communities across the city and make sure that areas that are needed for residential housing are returned to that primary use. So, again thank you for the question and I hope that addresses some of your points.


Housing Revenue Account

EC asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Housing and HR:

Please could the Portfolio Holder explain clearly if the £15m+ has been paid back to the Housing Revenue fund to Nottingham City Homes to be spent on their tenants?  This ring fenced money was wrongly used by Nottingham City Council.  If so, when was it paid back and if not when exactly will it be paid back?  Many Nottingham City Homes tenants live in cold, damp and structurally unsound properties with Nottingham City Homes saying they can do nothing to help those that live in 20th century properties built with single brick walls.  Will Nottingham City Homes tenants see repair and complaint procedures improve when it is brought back under the control of Nottingham City Council?

Councillor Toby Neal replied as follows:

Thank you Lord Mayor and again, thank you to the citizen for the question. The £15m was part of an overall £40m estimated figure in the CIPFA review of the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), which was broken down into two parts: £22.87m payable by the Council and £17.8m million payable by Nottingham City Homes (NCH). The final amount due from the General Fund was calculated using the base figure of £22.87m, to which was added the opportunity costs to the HRA of not having had the funds available to it, together with other smaller differences to it between the estimated and final amounts. The result was a total figure of £27.703m.  This been paid back to the HRA under the item nine credit direction granted by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on 8 August. It has been accounted for in the 2021/22 final accounts. The payment was funded from the General Fund, specifically the Financial Resilience Reserve. There is a £17.256m payable by NCH which remains outstanding and work is ongoing to conclude this item.


Investment to improve the quality of our housing stock remains a key priority for the Council and Nottingham City Homes, and will continue to be prioritised as part of the transition of housing management back to the Council. On the issues of efficiency, Nottingham City Council and Nottingham City Homes are committed to the 2050 Strategy for home improvements, acknowledging that by 2050 homes will need to be low to zero carbon. The first part of this ambition is to ensure all of our homes are no lower than EPC C by 2030. This is also the target being set by the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy as part of their funding requirements. Within the next five-year HRA capital programme there is an allowance of £26m for investment in energy measures to ensure all of our homes have an energy performance certificate C by 2030 or better. We have also undertaken energy performance assessments across all of our housing stock, which identified which properties don’t currently meet this target and what investment is required. This data takes into account properties built with single brick walls and non-traditional outsides. Since 2013, we have been investing in a significant number of properties across our housing stock and we have full stock condition information for 99% of our properties. This includes full stock condition, data on homes including housing, health and safety ratings, asbestos, energy performance ratings and structural works. This information has proven crucial in informing future decisions on stock retention or demolition and in identifying the need for structural investment work in the short, medium, and long term and has led to a capital investment programme of close to £240m over the next five years. With regard to housing repairs and whether complaints procedures will improve when it is brought back under the control of Nottingham City Council, the Director working with NCH is already reviewing its working practices to maximise efficiency through revenue and capital budgets. This will bring about efficiencies, better value for money and, where the capital programme supports, repairs undertaken.  Service improvements and a reduction in complaints is the anticipated outcome. Specifically in relation to repairs and maintenance, NCH is also reviewing current processes to ensure repairs are properly diagnosed and are then responded via either emergency, urgent or a planned priority. Having clear definitions will reduce the volume of the current level of emergency repairs from around 45% to less than 20% in line with industry standards and will facilitate a speedier response to urgent repairs. All investment into our housing stock is being reviewed as part of our development of the long-term housing revenue account business and as part of the transition process. We will take into account stock condition and repair requirements within the funding available. Thank you.


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